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For the next two weeks, Oklahoma City was the focus of conversation for almost everyone in Adelberg. While Glynn was undergoing sometimes painful and stressful tests, the town occupied itself with attempting to diagnose his illness on their own with polio being the leading favorite. That the BGCO continued to send its top people to fill Glynn’s pulpit, with Assistant Executive-Secretary Lyle Bastion driving up one week and the convention’s Director of Evangelism, James Turner, the next, was barely a matter of concern for anyone who lived in the small town or attended its otherwise-insignificant Baptist church.
Every other pastor in the association noticed, though, and it was a topic of conversation at the pastors’ conferences in both counties. Predictably, it was a different set of concerns voice in each meeting.
“There are pastors in Ridell County that honestly, fervently, believe that the state convention is going to swoop in and take control of their churches,” Roger told the group assembled at Emmanuel Church in Washataug. “Theirs was one of seven resolutions submitted to the resolutions committee at the convention addressing either the broader topic of heresy and disassociating with those churches, or Adelberg and the two Grace churches here specifically. That the resolutions committee saw to not bring any of those resolutions to the floor is something they see as a sign that either the convention doesn’t care or has already been consumed by its own heresy. Larry Winston is talking about pulling his church out of the convention altogether.”
“Let them go,” Carl said rather grumpily. “What bothers me is the way the folks in the Baptist Building are playing favorites. I called up there and asked Calvin to send someone to cover for me while I went home for my parent’s 50th anniversary and you know who they sent? Some wet-behind-the-ears string bean of a fellow who’s never pastored a church in his life and came in with some strange idea about splitting up the sermon, putting part of it right after the first hymn, and by the time I got back my congregation was as angry as a bunch of hornets. I’m supposed to be gone again after Christmas but I guess I’ll find someone myself.”
“That raises another question,” Roger said, jumping into the conversation to keep Carl’s melancholy from spreading to the rest of the group. “How many of you are doing both services on the 24th? Most of the Ridell churches are only having a morning service.”
A quick poll of the pastors present showed that, for the most part, they too were only holding Sunday morning services on Christmas Eve. Clement was the only one doing anything different.
“We’re trying something unusual,” the host pastor said. “Since Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday doesn’t happen very often, we’re opting to have just a brief, chapel-like service in the morning for those who insisted, then we’ll have a fuller, extended service starting at 4:00 in the afternoon. The kids’ pageant will start, which pretty much guarantees a packed house, then the youth will do a couple of songs, then we’ll have a candle-lit service starting about the time it gets really dark.”
“That sounds interesting,” Roger said. “I may have to drive over for that.”
Bill’s chair squeaked across the linoleum floor as he leaned back in feined boredom. “I tried talking with my deacons about doing a candle-lit service. They said it sounded too catholic, as if any of them have ever set foot in a Catholic church in their lives.”
One of the newer pastors to the association, Phillip Winetraub, pastor of Washataug’s Olivet church, spoke up. “It is a narrow line, attempting to preserve the faith and message we have as Southern Baptists and still not be so closed-minded that we don’t appear cult-like in our actions. I keep telling my church we need to be more creative in our thinking to draw more people, but every idea that comes up is either too catholic, or too Church of Christ, or too Espicopalian, or something. And I’m with Carl on getting any help from the Baptist Building. I call down there and either get passed around from one person to the next or ignored completely. I’d love just a fraction of the attention Glynn’s getting. Not that he doesn’t deserve it, but the rest of us could use some, too.”
“Call Oklahoma City and tell them we’ve all come down with a case of the Bafflement,” Bill said, intentionally injecting some humor into the conversation to keep the conversation from enough tension to ignite any level of anger that might be lurking.
“I’m going down there tomorrow,” Roger said. “I’m checking on Glynn and Marve, seeing as how they won’t be home for Thanksgiving. The medical center isn’t too far from downtown. I might swing by and put a bug in a few ears about them being more generous with their time.”
Clement chuckled as he leaned back in his chair, his posture matching Bill’s. “Good luck with that. If your church’s name doesn’t start with ‘First,’ you’re automatically second tier. I’ve been fighting that battle since I got here. They’ll come up for some big whoop they’re doing over at First church, then when we try to do something similar, they’re suddenly out of resources. That’s why I think the association is so important. We need to not look to Oklahoma City for all our answers and find the support we have, or should have, in each other.”
Roger smiled, glad that Clement had turned the group’s disappointment into an endorsement for the association. While it didn’t take the base issue off the table, it focused attention on the need for them to work together rather than trying to do everything on their own.
Thanksgiving felt as though it was coming early. November 1972 had five Thursdays, which meant that celebrating on the fourth Thursday, as was dictated, had the odd perception it was happening in the middle of the month rather than at the end. Tom and Linda had promised Marve they would bring the kids down to the medical center to see them, but as an early ice storm brought less-than-safe driving conditions to Oklahoma roads, those plans had to be canceled, leaving Marve and Glynn alone in a nearly-empty hospital for the holiday.
Once again, Glynn was feeling better. He could get up and walk around the room, hold conversations for a couple of hours at a time, and not seem to be ill at all. Eventually, though, the energy would leave him, his legs would go weak, he’d begin to feel dizzy, and he’d have to spend the next several hours in bed.
Late Wednesday evening, after nearly everyone except the night-shift nurses had gone home, Dr. Alamin Teller, a specialist in autoimmune diseases, had come to the room and confirmed the MS diagnosis. “At least, that’s what the tests seem to indicate,” he said. “We’ve eliminated every other possibility. There’s still a lot we don’t know. If I could have a look at your brain, that might help, but that kind of technology is still several years away if it ever happens at all. You seem to have a mild case, though, which means that with medication you should be able to return to a fairly normal life. You’ll simply have to learn the warning signs of when you’re about to have a flare-up and make sure you’re someplace safe when that happens. And you should avoid severe stress. Stress makes the flare-ups happen more often.”
Before leaving for the weekend, the doctor prescribed a new batch of medications so that by the time every one returned to the hospital on Monday, Glynn was already showing signs that the medicine was working. The medical center team would spend most of the next week teaching Glynn and Marve how to tell when a flare-up was about to happen, how to increase the time between flare-ups, dietary and exercise adjustments, and how to treat the flare-ups without having to go to the hospital every time.
As Glynn improved, though, Marve was growing more exhausted. While his private room, paid for by the state convention, included a couch where Marve could sleep, the constant coming and going of the nursing staff prevented her from getting any real rest. She was also missing her babies. Each evening’s phone call tugged strongly at her maternal instincts, telling her that she should be home with them.
Glynn tried to convince her to take a few days and go home. He insisted that he was doing better and that the nurses were more than sufficient to handle anything that might come up. Each time he almost had her convinced to make the drive home, though, he would have another flare-up, removing any sense that it might be safe for her to leave his side.
“This is going to change the way we do everything,” she told him after a particularly challenging session with a physical therapist. “I don’t know that I’m going to feel safe letting you go anywhere alone now, no matter how innocent it might be. What would you do if you were in an associational meeting and had a flare-up?”
Glynn sighed. “I don’t know that I dare attend associational meetings after all this,” he said. “I mean, Roger’s not going to ban me or anything, but he’s already split the pastors’ conference into two locations. That tells me he’s concerned that the whole thing could blow up again. Associational meetings and those damn pastors conferences were what got me into all this mess in the first place. If I’d just stayed home and minded my own business, we’d be fine.”
Marve reached over and held Glynn’s hand. She could tell he was agitated and given that he’d been having a relatively good day she didn’t want their conversation to mess up his progress. “You’ve made friends, too,” she reminded him. “Clement, Bill, Carl, all those guys have been down to see you. Calvin’s been here almost every afternoon. Several of the Oklahoma City pastors have been here more than once, also. You’ve been in the state less than a year and have already made a big impact, a good one, something you can be proud of.”
“I’ve caused more than my share of trouble, too,” Glynn said, not giving up the argument. “I’m still a Yankee to a lot of these people and a lot of the old animosities that have been in this denomination since its beginning have flared back up.”
“That makes absolutely no sense,” Marve said. “You told me a long time ago that the Southern Baptists split off from the North over slavery. How is that even still relevant?”
“Because the argument then came down to a matter of biblical interpretation. Those pastors from the Southern states were unbelievably finding ways to twist scripture to support their view. They were deplorably wrong but they were also stubborn as heck and refused to back down, so they split, years before the Confederacy took hold. In fact, Southern Baptist pastors of the mid-nineteenth century were some of the biggest traitors since Judas.”
Glynn reached behind him and readjusted his pillows so that he could sit up better. “One of the great challenges to preaching today is that we still understand so little about the original languages and the original texts. The best copies we have are centuries away from when they were first written and we can tell by the difference between one copy and the next that they were tampered with. Catholics still argue with everyone else over which books belong in the Bible and there are people who will challenge whether some of the minor prophets or all of Paul’s epistles should be in there. Almost every page in the Bible has something that Southern Baptists will fight over. They’ve always been that way I don’t see them ever changing.”
“Then maybe being Southern Baptist isn’t what’s best for us,” Marve suggested. “Those Methodist folk seem rather nice and outside the music thing, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference between us and the Church of Christ. Perhaps its time to consider our options.”
Glynn shook his head, a movement he had to be careful to not engage vigorously. “I’m damaged goods at this point,” he said quietly. “You heard the doctor the other day. He made it pretty clear that I can only preach one sermon a week, and even those have to be restrained. How’s the church going to handle that? Do we cancel Sunday and Wednesday evening services? Do I let the deacons take turns, because you know that wouldn’t end well? We’re too small to take on an assistant of any kind. They barely pay my salary and expenses. There’s no way they can add to that.”
“They wouldn’t necessarily have to,” Joe said as he let himself into the room. He paused and smiled before continuing. “Good evening, Marve, sounds like he’s feeling better today.”
“If by ‘better’ you mean ornery and cantankerous, then yes, definitely,” she answered, smiling back.
“And how long have you been standing out there listening to me throwing fits?” Glynn asked, more teasing than not. He didn’t mind that the Executive-Secretary might have heard him complaining. Certainly, he, of all people, could understand the situation.
Joe reached over and shook GLynn’s hand before answering. “Just long enough to confirm that you’re doing exactly what Dr. Teller warned me you’ve been doing. He’s worried that you’re worried and asked if there was anything we could do to help. And the answer is that there might be.”
“Joe, there’s no way you can keep sending people from here all the way up there,” Glynn objected. “I’ve appreciated everyone filling in, but especially with this winter weather trying to pretend it’s Michigan, it’s just not safe.”
“I think we may have a better solution,” Joe said, “And I want you to think about it a couple of days before we mention it to anyone at your church. I’ve talked with Roger, and Floyd Lockman in our state Missions department, and with a couple of people at the Home Mission Board in Atlanta, and I think that we might be able to cobble enough support together to pay for a part-time associate pastor for the church; someone who can fill in those gaps you’re not going to be able to do for yourself.”
Glynn leaned back into the pillows on the bed. His mind was instantly swirling with objections. “I don’t know, Joe. I can see all kinds of problems there. Having to manage a staff member could be just as stressful as doing everything myself. And to whom would he report, me or you guys or the Home Mission Board?”
“We’ve talked about that,” Joe said calmly. “And I think the right person would be more help than hindrance. There’s a retired, widowed pastor who lives in Washataug, his name’s Gordon Winsockit. Clement knows him well. In fact, he’s Clement’s default fill-in any time he has to be gone. He could come over on Sundays and Wednesdays, maybe take care of hospital visits in Washataug for you, and wouldn’t need or likely want to be involved beyond that. He’d still be a church employee and his salary wouldn’t need to be all that much. We’d funnel the collective funds directly to the church so that they stay in control. I’d like you to meet him, maybe give him a turn in the pulpit. Consider the option.”
Glynn considered the offer for a minute. Doctor Teller had warned him repeatedly that trying to return to a normal, busy schedule could have devastating, perhaps even fatal effects. Still, he worried that multiple pastors might result in divided loyalties among the congregation. Would they still want him if the new guy could do just as well without all the health expenses? “Do you think he’d handle the controversy?” Glynn asked. “I mean, to some extent being my assistant is rather like stepping into a powder keg with a lit match.”
Joe smiled in what seemed like a fatherly way, warm and caring yet slightly impatient. “First off, the controversy is about to go away. I was talking with Jackie Draper at First Southern, Down City just yesterday. Some of the same people had been after him over some nonsense about marrying people who’d been previously divorced. This had been going on for over a year, really raising a ruckus among the church down there, and he finally took a full week, last week, and went and visited directly with every one of those guys that’s been causing trouble. Only two of them wouldn’t talk to him, the two who are causing you trouble as well. But he’s effectively dismantled their network. Most of these guys are basically good, trying to do their best, but they don’t have the education and are easily influenced. Jackie’s a gentle educator and was able to get through to them that they’re hurting more than helping. Jerry and James are isolated. They don’t have the support they once did. I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about them after the first of the year.”
Marve leaned in and put her head on Glynn’s shoulder. “I think you should really consider it, honey. This could be the answer you’ve been looking for. I think it would be a good thing.”
Glynn closed his eyes. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Maybe he could fill the pulpit this Sunday, see how the people react.”
“I think that’s a good move,” Joe answered. “I’ll talk with Gordon and with Buck, let them both know what we’re thinking. One step at a time, Glynn. We’ll get you there.”
Winter in Oklahoma is rarely troubling. Out-of-season tornadoes are more likely than below-freezing temperatures and snowstorms, especially in the Northeastern part of the state. When a super-cold snap does come along, it rarely lingers for more than a couple of days. Ranchers, especially, rely on these mild winters. Cattle are allowed to roam more freely, spend less time in barns, meaning less fat and more meat in addition to lower costs. This was not going to be one of those winters, though.
Eventually, after tempers died down and a couple of people died, most of those who survived the ordeal admitted that it all could have, should have, been handled differently with deeper consideration all the way around for the feelings and needs of those involved. At the time, though, it was one disaster piling on top of another, some natural, some inevitable, and some born of pure stubbornness.
Marve brought Glynn back home on the morning of December 1. Knowing the length of the trip and with inhospitable weather in the forecast, Dr. Teller made sure that Glynn was discharged by 8:00 that morning, not an easy feat with all the insurance and medical records that had to be prepared by an overnight staff that wasn’t accustomed to the pressure. The doctor was more concerned with getting the Waterburys on the road before it got too cold than he was with making sure that all the necessary paperwork was complete and correct. Paperwork, he assumed, could always be re-done. Lives couldn’t.
Frances and a couple of other women from the church, along with Ellen Stone next door, had made sure the parsonage was ready when the pastor and his wife arrived a little after 12:00. Having been practically unlived in for the past three weeks, there was plenty of dusting and routine cleaning that needed to be done. Beds were made with clean sheets, the few dishes that had been left in the sink were washed and put away. The refrigerator was stuffed with enough ready-to-eat meals for a week and Frances knew there were more planned for the rest of the month. Irene Hendricks spent the morning insisting everything had to be sanitized, which was largely impractical in such a short time. The women hardly noticed when the rain started.
Marve thought she felt the back tires of the car slip a couple of times as she drove up the hill to the house but didn’t say anything. There was always enough loose gravel on the street to make a little slipping a rather common occurrence. She was more concerned that there were so many cars in front of the parsonage and that their personal space had been violated without their permission. She tried putting on her happy face as Glynn reminded her that surely everyone’s heart was in the right place and they didn’t have anything to hide in the first place.
Everyone was excited to see the preacher home and walking without help, even if he was still a little shaky and frail-looking. Glynn settled into his recliner and tried to answer the influx of questions that were being flung at him by the assembled women. He assured them that, yes, while MS is often fatal, that no, he wasn’t dying just yet and that he’d be able to continue being their pastor. He secretly wondered how severe the rumors of his impending death had gotten but decided it was probably better to not ask.
Marve would remember that it was around 1:15 when Buck bounded up the front steps and entered the house as he knocked on the door. “I’m sorry to break up the party,” he said, slightly out of breath, “but the roads are starting to ice. Ya’ll best be gettin’ on home while ya’ can. None of ya’ want to be slidin’ down this hill. Ms. Irene, if you can hop in the truck I’ll take you to the house.” He then turned and warned Frances, who had her own car to drive home, “Be careful ‘bout that turn there at two-mile junction. Between the ruts and the ice you could ruin a tire.”
While the women gathered their assorted cleaning supplies, Buck sat down next to Glyn to confirm that Gordon Winsockit had agreed to fill the pulpit that Sunday, essentially coming in view of a call as associate pastor. The details needed to be worked out and Buck warned that Alan wasn’t completely gung-ho on the idea. Still, he felt sure that the church would agree to Gordon taking the position since it wasn’t going to directly cost them any money.
On his way out the door, Buck looked up at the unusually dark sky and said, “I think I’ll stop by the school and suggest Tom call the buses to take those kids home. This storm’s lookin’ like it’s gonna cause some trouble.”
Later, Tom would tell the school board that he hadn’t heeded Buck’s advice because it was less than two hours before the busses would run anyway. By the time he called all six drivers and got them into town, it would have only made 10-15 minutes worth of difference. His assessment was almost certainly correct but not popular. School let out at the normal time with parents carefully inching along slick roads to pick up children who would normally have walked. The incidence of a couple of small fender-benders was a bit of a nuisance, perhaps, but Tom insisted that all six drivers felt confident they could get their kids home safely.
By 3:40, the sky was dark enough it felt like the evening had arrived early. Claire and Linda had dropped off Lita and Hayden but hadn’t stayed owing to the weather. The kids were, naturally enough, excited that their Daddy was home and Marve found herself repeating warnings that jumping on Daddy was not going to be acceptable. Neither child was inclined to listen, though, as each little body contained volumes of information that had been stored under pressure, waiting to explode in a torrent of chatter so severe all Glynn could do in response was nod.
The couple had already decided that Marve was to answer the phone exclusively for the foreseeable future. She was to use her discretion in determining which messages were important enough to be passed on to Glynn. When Rose called, however, Marve had to take a moment to decide how, exactly, to break the news in a way that wouldn’t have him wanting to jump up and run out the door.
“Who was that?” Glynn asked as Marve walked into the living room and sat down.
In the distance, the sound of the siren on the ambulance echoed through the town, its long wail piercing the quiet that inevitably comes with a winter storm. Everyone in town heard it, but only three people knew what the emergency was and where the ambulance was going. Had more people know, they would have done their best to respond.
“That was Rose,” Marve said as nonchalantly as she could. “She knows you’re in no condition to really do anything, but wanted you to be aware that apparently, a bus slid off the road out toward Bluebird.”
Glynn sat up in his chair and leaned forward, a dozen questions rushing to his mind. “Did she say which bus? There are two that go out that way, Gary’s and Norman’s. Gary’s route splits off at the old feed silo and goes north. Norman’s goes on down to Bluebird Road then heads south. Were any of the kids hurt? I mean, I guess someone was if Hub is going out there. She didn’t say how many kids were still on the bus, did she?”
Marve reached over and put her hand on Glynn’s arm. “She didn’t tell me a thing other than Hub’s on his way. This is one of those situations we talked about, honey. You can’t do anything but wait for more information. If anyone actually needs you, then maybe the kids can go next door to the Stone’s a play while I take you. But until then, just sit back and try to not let it get to you.”
No one ever called to say that Glynn was needed, though perhaps had he been out there, he might have helped cool tempers who were blaming Tom for the injuries. Norman Reed’s bus had slipped off the narrow dirt road and turned over in the four-foot-deep ditch. Norman broke a leg and his right shoulder. Two children, high school students, both boys who had been standing up at the time, waiting for their upcoming stop, had broken arms. Almost all fifteen of the remaining students had cuts and gashes from the glass, a few of which needed stitches.
Hub wished that he could have gotten Norman and the kids to the hospital faster, but the roads wouldn’t allow it. The last thing he needed was to slide off the road himself and perhaps make the situation worse. He had no choice but to drive painfully slow, Norman on the gurney in the back with one of the teens sitting next to him, and the other teen sitting up front with Hub. The only sound other than the constant, annoying wail of the siren was an occasional groan from Norman. What would have normally been a 12-minute drive took almost an hour.
By 5:00, it was not quite dark but it was close enough that one couldn’t see much without a light of some kind. A half-inch of ice coated everything, which doesn’t sound like much until one tries to walk on it and suddenly finds themselves sprawled out in the middle of the road. The ice was practically invisible in most places, making the danger even worse. Parents retrieved their children from the overturned bus, shouted obscenities at Tom for not having acted sooner, then took their kids home to bandage. While some would have benefited from going to the hospital, no one was worried enough to risk the trip. There wasn’t a farmhouse in the county that didn’t have quinine and bandages at the ready. Parents would take care of their own.
Marve pulled the first casserole out of the refrigerator and put it in the oven to heat. As much as she loved cooking, she was thankful to not have that obligation in front of her for the moment. The kids were always excited to try something different, though, in this case, their excitement was dampened when they discovered the casserole was all vegetables, especially heavy with carrots. Still, there was rhubarb pie for dessert and everyone left the table happy. Lita helped her mother clear the table while Glynn and Hayden retreated to the living room. Hayden played with his toy cars in front of the television he was ignoring. The national news broadcast was on now, serving merely as background noise as Glynn watched out the front window.
Snow was falling. Perhaps, under some other set of circumstances, Glynn might have been thankful for the large, fluffy flakes that quickly placed a white blanket over the small town. The snow reflected the light from street lamps and sparkled enticingly in the darkness. The pastor knew from experience, though, that this snow was dangerous. If the ice had been difficult to see before, it was completely hidden now. Any traction one might have in a normal snowfall was gone when there was ice underneath. Anyone with any sense would stay inside until the county sent out salt trucks to help melt the mess. There was no chance of that happening before morning.
The phone rang four more times that evening. The first was Frances letting Marve know that they were expecting the Waterburys to have Christmas dinner with them. She was making the call early so that Marve wouldn’t need to worry about buying additional food. Marve asked multiple times if she could bring anything but Frances insisted that all they needed to do was show up.
Two minutes later, Buck called back, upset that Frances hadn’t bothered to ask how the pastor was doing. Marve assured him that all was well except for the fact Glynn was frustrated at feeling helpless given the weather. Buck assured them that most everyone was feeling that way and went ahead and floated the idea that if the county didn’t get the roads salted on Saturday that they might want to cancel Sunday’s services. They all knew that if the doors were open, there were a handful of older church members who would insist on being there or at least trying. They didn’t need to be responsible for anyone else getting hurt.
Claire called next, upset with something she had read in a book she had gotten on interlibrary loan. Marve conferred briefly with Glynn and they agreed that Claire could come over, and bring the book, Saturday morning on the condition that she walked for her own safety. The teen was excited to have the pastor’s attention for a while. Glynn, on the other hand, dreaded the distinct possibility that he wouldn’t have the answers she wanted. Claire wasn’t yet in college and already her level of religious studies exceeded his.
Gordon Winsockit was the final call for the night. Roads in Washataug were as bad as those in Adelberg and Gordon was concerned as to whether he would be able to make the scheduled visit with Glynn on Saturday afternoon, especially if weather forecast held true and the snow continued through the night. They agreed that if such was the case they would talk instead by phone, each thankful that calls within the county were not considered long distance.
By the time Glynn finished the conversation with Gordon, Marve had put the kids to bed and made hot tea for them both. They sat together on the sofa watching the late local news from Tulsa as best as they could, primarily for the weather forecast. The wind kept playing with the television antenna on the roof of the house, though, making the reception almost as snowy as the conditions outside. When they finally made their way to bed, thoroughly exhausted, that had little hope of Saturday being the least bit productive.
Sleeping in would have been nice and appreciated, but with two children in the house anxious to watch the very first cartoon that showed up on television, that was impossible. Marve tried to convince Glynn to stay in bed and rest while she got up and fixed the kids’ cereal for breakfast, but he was too restless after a night of worrisome dreams that challenged his adequacies on every level. Besides, the aroma of fresh coffee was too enticing to ignore. The pastor got up, slipped on a loose-fitting shirt, old slacks, and a pair of slippers that had barely been worn.
The first phone call came at 7:30. Alan’s message that the county was not going to be able to get over to Adelberg until after noon could have easily enough been relayed through Marve, but he insisted on speaking with Glynn directly. His reasoning soon became clear. Alan wanted to be the first to suggest that the church cancel the next day’s services. He felt certain that the late arrival of salt trucks would mean that little would melt and that what did would likely turn back to ice overnight, making the roads just as dangerous. The deacon also expressed doubts as to whether a person as old as Gordon needed to be driving in such cold and hinted that perhaps the pastor himself could return to the pulpit if they waited a week.
Glynn took the call relatively calmly at first, but the longer Alan talked the more agitated the pastor could feel himself becoming. Finally, after listening to Alan’s negative reasoning, Glynn snapped, “Look, I have to consider what’s best for the entire church, not what’s best for Alan Mayes. I appreciate your opinion but I’ll talk to others as well and we’ll ultimately do what’s best for the entire congregation.” He knew the moment he hung up the phone that he’d been too brusk but he ignored the voice in his head that urged him to call back and apologize.
Horace called shortly after 8:00, urging the pastor to postpone any decision about morning services. The farmer was convinced that he could marshal enough tractors with shovel blades attached to the front to scrape the town’s streets once they’d been salted. He told Glynn that the country roads weren’t as bad since the ice didn’t have the same effect on mud as it did on asphalt. Glynn agreed to wait and give Horace a chance to address the roads before making a decision. Glynn was the only one in town, however, who would give Horace such a positive response.
The telephone refused to stop ringing. Marve was able to handle most of the calls. Yes, Glynn was feeling better and enjoying being home. No, Sunday services hadn’t been canceled yet but could be later in the day. Yes, they had sufficient food and supplies to get them through the snap of bad weather.
When Roger called a little after 9:30, he was careful to press Marve as to whether Glynn might be up to handling some difficult news. The Director of Missions was hesitant to give Marve any details, telling her only that one of the pastors had been involved in an accident and the circumstances were raising some questions. When Marve handed the phone to Glynn, Roger still did a verbal dance asking Glynn how he was feeling and how the church was responding before getting down to the purpose of his call.
“Listen, I called primarily because I wanted you to hear the news from me before it likely shows up in tomorrow’s papers,” Roger said, his voice quiet and somewhat conspiratorial in tone. “Larry Winston was in a car accident last night and is in critical condition at Baptist Hospital. The accident itself wasn’t his fault. He was parked along the street there in front of the Five and Dime when a guy in a pickup, driving too fast on the ice, slammed into him pretty hard, squashing his car up next to the building.”
Glynn hoped his voice sounded somber enough when he said, “I’m truly sorry to hear that. Is he going to be okay? Was his wife with him?” He wanted to sound concerned but he was having trouble holding back the thought that the trouble-making pastor was getting what he deserved.
Roger hesitated before continuing, knowing that what he was about to say could be taken as a form of character assassination if it proved untrue. “That’s just the trouble, Glynn, his wife wasn’t with him. This was a bit after 10:30 last night and there was a 14-year-old boy in the front seat with him.”
“What?” Glynn exclaimed loud enough that the kids looked up from their cartoons. “You’re not suggesting…”
“Hold on, it gets worse,” Roger said, interrupting. “The boy died at the scene. His body is completely smashed.”
Glynn felt his stomach turn. He didn’t like where this story was going. “Oh dear…” he said softly.
Roger continued, “To make matters worse, Glynn, the police are saying Jerry was drunk. There was a half-empty bottle of whiskey in the car and his blood-alcohol level was so high the hospital had to start a transfusion before they could treat his injuries. Then, they’re telling me, almost joking about it in fact, that Jerry has his pants down around his ankles. They’re laughing about it, but Glynn, you know as well as I do what’s going to happen if this hits the papers.”
Glynn fought back the urge to throw up. “Any chance you have enough influence at the paper to get them to hold off on the article? Sunday morning is a bad time for that to hit.”
“Only if something more sensational comes along,” Roger said. “I know some of our churches have already canceled services tomorrow because of the weather and I am tempted to look at that as a good thing, but at the same time, if they’re all home reading an article like this, that may or may not have its facts straight, they’re going to leap to conclusions that may not be true and it could be another week before we have a chance to address them. By then it will be too late. The damage to our reputations as pastors and as a denomination will be severe.”
Glynn didn’t want to hear this. As much as he personally disliked Larry, this stood to become an issue that would plague the church for years if it wasn’t tamped down. They would all be painted negatively and regarded with suspicion. “What about the boy’s parents? Have you talked with them? How are they reacting?”
“They’re understandably devastated,” Roger replied. “He was their younger of two sons. They said he had been in trouble a bit earlier in the year and that Larry had taken a special interest in him over the past couple of months. They said his behavior had changed in that time, that he had become more reclusive, but they didn’t mind much because at least he wasn’t in trouble. They’re a poor family. Dad drives a truck, isn’t home much. They’re worried about how to pay for the funeral. It will have to be a closed casket, though. That poor kid’s body is hardly recognizable as human.”
“Maybe we can pay for the funeral,” Glynn suggested. “Not the association directly, of course, but maybe the pastors pool their money. Let the family see us as good guys and perhaps they’ll not look too deeply into what Larry was doing with their son.”
Roger gave the idea some thought. “That might work. Let me talk with Bill and some of the other pastors over here. Let’s try to keep the whole matter quiet for now. If you hear any rumors, try to play them down. I’ll see if I can contact the reporter at the paper. I can’t ask them to lie, but maybe they could leave out some of the more damning issues. Get them to focus on the guy who was driving the truck that hit them.”
Glynn agreed that sounded like a good approach to take. After a little more “how are you feeling” chatter, the call ended just as Claire knocked on the door. She was carrying a rather large suitcase and both she and the suitcase were covered in snow.
Marve answered the door with, “Good heavens, Claire! I didn’t know you are moving in!”
The teenager shook off the snow before stepping inside then answered. “I didn’t know any other way to safely bring the books with me. They’re old and I didn’t want them to get wet. But yeah, Mom had me bring some spare clothes in case the weather gets too bad for me to walk home. Neither she or Daddy want to drive up the hill to get me and after the bus thing yesterday, I’m not sure Daddy should be out at all. He came home coughing and sneezing and I’m pretty sure he has a fever.”
Marve helped Claire get her coat off then laughed at the half-dozen additional layers of clothes she had worn. “How did you even walk in all that?” Tea was made. Friendly chatter was exchanged. Both kids had to have their turn at talking to Claire. Finally, Claire opened the suitcase and pulled out two ancient-looking volumes, neither of which were in English.
Glynn looked at the books and warned, “I hope you’re not expecting me to translate those for you.”
Claire laughed as she opened the books to pages she’d bookmarked. “No, it’s simple German so the translation isn’t that big of deal. You remember Junias who was in prison with Paul?”
The pastor had to stop and think. The name was certainly familiar but had she pressed he couldn’t have told her exactly where the person was referenced. “I think so,” he said cautiously. “Refresh me.”
“Romans 16:7. Paul tells them to salute Junia and Andronicus, who had been in prison with him and were apostles before him,” she explained. “For the most part, everyone seems to treat that as a throw-away verse. But then I came across a place in a book I was reading a couple of months ago that referred to Junia as actually being Junias in the oldest manuscripts and that kinda changes things because Junias is feminine. How could there have been female apostles, right?”
Glynn simply nodded and let the girl talk as she went on about the evidence that existed that there had not only been female apostles but disciples as well, that Peter’s wife and several others were just as large a part of Jesus’ ministry and the growth of the early church as were any of the men involved. Her argument was detailed and involved and all Glynn could do was try and keep up. There was little of it that he understood.
“I guess maybe this could explain why Paul felt he needed to go all-in with the ‘men are the head of women’ thing in Timothy,” Claire continued. “I think he was threatened by the fact that the women were staying more true to the original cause of Christ while Paul and Peter and the others were getting distracted by the whole power structure, which was probably what eventually got them all killed.” She paused and looked up for a second before asking, “So, what am I supposed to do with this? I don’t have to keep reading a bunch of reference books to know that the Church has gotten this wrong. Paul said himself that there is no male or female, jew or greek, but I’m afraid if I say anything I’m just going to get talked down at, told I need to shut my mouth and listen to the men, and honestly, Pastor Glynn, I think the Church needs a feminist movement but I don’t know how to start one.”
Glynn leaned back in his recliner and sighed. “You’re not going to like my response, Claire. First of all, I’m not sure you’re right. I’ll admit that I haven’t studied the matter nearly as much as you have, but basing your argument on a couple of hidden statements in 19th-century books hardly seems conclusive. I mean, how do you know that the authors of those books were even legitimate scholars themselves?”
He leaned forward so that there wouldn’t be as much distance between them and added, “Look, Claire, I love how excited you are about the Bible and going to Princeton and everything. You’ve already got me beat by a mile. I can’t even keep up with you anymore. But the reality is that you’re going up against centuries of tradition and study, and you’re a girl. I’ve been yelled at for the past four months because I dared to say that death is an absolute. How do you think they’re going to respond to the idea that there were female disciples or a feminist re-writing of the Bible? They’re going to tear you apart, Claire. They’re going to tear you apart and they’re going to enjoy doing it because it makes them feel righteous.”
Tears welled up in the teen’s eyes. She closed the books and put them back in the suitcase. “So, you’re telling me I’m wasting my time, that I should just shut up and not rock the boat.”
“No, not at all… “ Glynn started, but Claire wasn’t paying any attention.
“I’ll just go before the weather gets any worse,’ she said as she wiped tears from her eyes. “I’m sorry to have bothered you. I thought maybe you’d be different.”
Marve tried to convince Claire to stay. Another inch of snow had fallen since the girl had arrived. There were no signs of salt trucks or plows. No one else was out. Claire refused to listen. With all her layers of clothes back on and her coat fastened tightly around her, she kissed each of the kids good-bye and headed out the door into the cold.
Marve turned and glared at Glynn. “You couldn’t have humored her just a little, could you? You just crushed that little girl’s dreams. If something happens to her on the way home, it’s your fault.”
Barely a word was spoken between the couple the rest of the day. Marve’s anger only seemed to grow as the day wore on. Glynn, not feeling up for the fight, simply stayed quiet, making the situation worse in doing so.
Gordon called at 3:00 and Glynn answered the phone himself. “The roads are horrible and no one seems to be doing anything about it,” he said. “There’s no way I can make it over there tomorrow.”
“That’s understandable. Would you like to push it out a week?” Glynn offered.
There was a long silence on the other end of the phone line. The older preacher finally said, “No, let’s wait until after the holidays. I think your church needs to hear from you. If I have my timeline correct, it’s been what, nearly a month? You’re their pastor. They need a sound of hope. They need a reason to rejoice this Christmas season. I think I’d rather wait and after the first of the year we can talk about whether you really need an associate.”
“If I can make it through the stress of Christmas events and services, I doubt we’ll need to have a conversation at all,” Glynn fired back a little more roughly than he intended.
Again, there was measured silence before Gordon responded. “You’re probably correct. You know where I am if you need me.”
The line went dead and Glynn stood there holding the phone not quite sure what had just happened. He hung up the phone and almost immediately it rang.
“We have to cancel services,” Buck said the instant the pastor answered. “One of the county’s salt trucks slid into a ditch and now they’re not sending out any of the others. We’re stuck.”
“What about Horace?” Glynn asked. “I thought he was going to try and …”
“Yeah, that didn’t work,” Buck said, interrupting. “No one wanted to risk their tractors in this mess. I think he tried getting his tractor out, but I’m not sure he made it very far.”
“Okay, then,” Glynn conceded. “Let everyone know.” He sat down in his recliner and barely moved until dinner time. Even then, the table was mostly quiet. Even the kids picked up on the level of stress in the house and kept their chatter to a minimum.
Marve was clearing away the dinner dishes when the phone rang one last time. It was Linda. “Is Claire spending the night with you guys?” she asked. “She was supposed to call me by 3:00 if she was and I haven’t heard anything. Just wanted to check.”
Two minutes later, Marve came to the living room door and tossed Glynn’s parka at him. “Put that on and find your boots. I don’t care how sick you are, you need to go find Claire.”